My father died the day after my 40th birthday.
I was working for an international bank at the time, and there was no question about the compassionate leave I was entitled to for the loss of a parent.
It was an unusual week actually.
Hubby had arranged a helicopter ride for me the weekend before as they were fully booked on my actual birthday. Dad was in hospital, so as we flew over the buildings, I took photographs, then had them rush developed so that I could share them with him when I visited on Wednesday.
The first thing he asked was ‘How did it go?’
He was so excited for me as we shared the tale and photos of my flight.
He was also excited about the prospect of going home the following day.
On Thursday evening, I received a phone call suggesting I got to the hospital quickly.
When I arrived, Mum was there with Sis, and I was told that he’d had a massive heart attack and they were still working on him, having already ‘brought him back’ twice.
Eventually he was wired up to machines in the ICU, and I stayed with Mum at the hospital all night.
Our anniversary was on the Friday, and Hubby had arranged for a bouquet to be delivered to the office, except I wasn’t there. Luckily, he was able to change the delivery day to Monday.
Bro, Sis and I took it in shifts to stay with my Mum who was never far from Dad’s side.
I would phone the hospital before my 6am arrival, and Hubby would take Mum to the canteen for something to eat, and made sure she did. He’d then stay with Mum at Dad’s bedside whilst I got something to eat, then go home, coming back to collect me between 9 and 10pm.
My sister took over for a few hours, then Bro had the night shift from 2am until I arrived again at 6. We made sure Dad was never alone, and neither was Mum.
I took my cake into the ICU and shared it with the staff as the machines surrounding him whirred, blipped and bleeped. It wasn’t an unhappy day, just ‘different’.
On Monday, he was breathing on his own, and the Consultant did his rounds, giving my Mum hope that he would regain consciousness.
He never did.
At 4.23 that afternoon, with Mum holding one hand, me the other, and Bro and Hubby by his bedside, he slipped peacefully away from us.
My sister was absent as she had to collect her youngest daughter from school and was bringing her back to visit. Bro told her the sad news when she arrived.
She was angry that Dad hadn’t waited for her, but I am convinced that he had…… waited for her not to be there. If she had, it would have been terrible for my Mum as Sis would not have been able to hold it together.
I rang the office, and was told about the beautiful bouquet waiting for me on my desk.
I collected it the following day, and the support I had from my work colleagues was phenomenal.
I was entitled to a week’s leave, but asked for an extra day, as the funeral was the day before Mum’s birthday, and I wanted to take her somewhere special after such a sad day for all of us.
Not knowing what to get her as a gift, I suggested adopting a Swan, and both Bro and Sis contributed to the one-off cost of £28.
Mum and I went to Abbotsbury Swannery for the hatchings, a traditional annual event, and it rained all day so we didn’t see much, but we didn’t care.
We had our lunch in the tea rooms, dripping all over the floor, and filled out the forms for Mum’s Swan.
She called him Henry after my Dad, and was told she would receive regular photographs and a newsletter as to his progress and breeding status throughout his life.
Apart from the first year when she received a standard advertisement flyer, she didn’t hear anything. On making enquiries, they told her it was possible that the bird had died and not been reported (if it had died in the first year, she would have been allocated a replacement), or they had simply lost track of him because he’d left the area. All swans are ringed which is how they can report on them. Also, they all belong to the Realm.
It was therefore all a little disappointing, especially for Mum.
I’ve always liked swans, as does my Mother. She may or may not remember the one she adopted all those years ago, but I can send her photos and news of those that we come in contact with, and there are plenty here.
It’s highly doubtful that any of them are her Henry of course, but that doesn’t matter.
However, if they are his descendants, well, Hello!